Recently, we were invited to go to a winter menu tasting by a restaurant called Aqua Bar. The only way we would have ever gone was to be invited, since not only is the place out in Pudong, it’s smack dab in the middle of a residential complex, making it near impossible for us to ever have discovered or tried to discover it for ourselves. That having been said, the food was good enough to write about… and so we shall.
Aqua Bar is actually the brainchild of a luxury property leasing company, Aquaspace Shanghai, whose representatives told us they were chosen as a “Shanghai Expo Distinguished Guest Accommodation Provider.” Which means, the food we ate was the food eaten and is the food that will be eaten at some point by distinguished Expo guests.
It’s located in Lujiazui’s Yanlord Gardens, a massive residential complex that’s maybe a fifteen minute walk from the Pearl Tower. And when we say massive, we mean it. We came in through one of the farther entrances, on Puming Lu, and got lost for a good while just trying to find the club house/restaurant building Aqua Bar is located in. As their people told us later, they don’t get a lot of foot traffic – it’s mostly a place for private parties and may one day become a place only for private parties. For now though, it’s open for the few walk-ins that do come in to order off their ala carte menu.
Which is good, because if the tasting was anything to go by, their ala carte menu is pretty reasonably priced and portioned. Our soup starter, a turnip volute (38RMB), had a chunk of braised pork rib resting in it that was big enough to be in a main entree. In fact, the size of the soup wasn’t sized too differently from the next two entrees we got – a poached fillet of sea bass (88RMB) that melted onto our forks and a steamed fillet of Qingdao organic beef (148RMB), which was so tender and juicy – in a way completely different from how most steaks are tender and juicy – we wondered why we hadn’t heard of more people doing it.
Dessert consisted of a mixed berry crumble that very much resembled a thick berry stew (hearty, thick, sweet – 48RMB) and “chocolate rice dumplings.” (38RMB) They were rice-skins wrapped around individual melted chocolates (white, milk and dark) and placed in a pumpkin soup. It sounded incredibly weird on paper, and we were a little hesitant to try it at first. We’re still not sure of our opinion on it – the flavors matched just fine, despite our misgivings, but the texture of dumpling skin while eating chocolate… it might just not be our thing.
Still, we applauded the creativity – lots of restaurants strive to do fusion here in Shanghai, but this is definitely a more creative interpretation of the term. The dishes were designed by Kevin Stone, a chef from the U.K. whose baby face (we honestly thought he was still in his teens when he greeted us, the staff assured us he was in his mid-20s) belied his ability to cook.
Once again, we stress that this was a dinner we were especially invited to. Take that however you will and our review with as many grains of salt as you want. But hell, the food was damn fine – and more importantly, actually surprised us. Also, lord knows how else this restaurant would have ever gotten us to trek into the intimidating gated communities of Lujiazui.
Hey, if everybody else is as reluctant as us to get there, the chances of you getting the VIP… er… “distinguished guest” treatment is probably exponentially higher, right?
Aqua Restaurant and Bar is located on the 2nd Floor of 3rd Period Clubhouse in Yanlord Gardens, 99 Pucheng Road (near Shangcheng Road) in Pudong. 浦东新区浦城路99弄（靠近商城路）仁恒滨江园三期会所二楼. Tel: 6888 8852. Email: [email protected]